“Companies that are not committed to customer service don't have a future,” states Robert Spector, customer care expert and author of The Nordstrom Way to Customer Experience Excellence: Creating a Values-Driven Culture. This harsh reality still holds many organizations back from focusing on customer service, and developing those long-lasting customer relationships. Perhaps, much like shopping for that perfect pair of shoes, this is easier said than done. That’s why John Hernandez, COO and SVP of Service Cloud at Salesforce sat down with Robert Spector, to understand what successful companies such as Nordstrom are doing well, as well as what unsuccessful businesses are doing poorly, in order to bring true customer service best practices to the table.
Here’s a look at the pitfalls of customer service from Robert that may surprise you. For a complete view, check out the Leading Edge webcast.
According to Robert Spector, in the customer service area, it is not about a digital customer or a brick-and-mortar customer. It’s a customer. “It's taking an entire look at the customer when the customer wants to do business with you anytime, anywhere, any day, and make sure that is what you're giving the customer,” advises Robert. Organizations have to think of themselves as a whole customer service organization.
We’re all consumers of goods and services, and we’ve all experienced the good and the bad of customer service. While many often forget, Robert reminds us to think about our own experiences in customer service when we’re interacting with customers. “Everybody's an expert on customer service. We need to carry that when we are giving the service, not just receiving it,” says Robert, “Think like the customer; think like you.”
Consumers expect organizations to know what they want, when and where they want it. “It's just ‘know me,’” says Robert of the customer voice, “Know what I like, and then take care of it, that's the burden on companies that want to give great customer service.” Organizations must tackle the challenge of removing internal silos so that customers don't have to navigate. Then, organizations can quickly take care of the customer in a personalized way.
How do you communicate among the various entities in your organization? Do you over communicate or under communicate? According to Robert, great customer service comes from over communication. “When you have an offer, there’s no reason why the person on the other line shouldn’t know about it.”
Companies have all of their customer data, however, it's utilizing the data effectively to understand what customers might need in that moment. For instance, if you're in San Francisco, your airline doesn't need to sell you a plane ticket to fly to San Francisco.
Top-notch brands understand how to distinguish between a one-time customer service and a true customer journey or experience. Great customer service is not a sprint, but a marathon. “It's thinking long term. Any good salesperson is not thinking about the sale today or the big score today. They’re thinking about a relationship,” advises Robert, “It’s not price oriented, it’s quality oriented. With that mindset, customers are going to stay with you because you’re going to take care of them.”
Have you ever been to a place where the employees are miserable, yet somehow, magically, you get fabulous service? It doesn't happen. According to Robert, the employee experience determines the customer experience. “Successful companies doing amazing business have a great culture built around their employees,” notes Robert, “If you have employees who are engaged, motivated, and interested in you as a customer, that’s going to create a great customer service organization.” While successful organizations are very different in how they do business, when it comes to the culture, that's where they lead.
Robert shared that only 51% of Nordstrom revenue comes from stores. The rest is online and direct. Therefore, Nordstrom is constantly looking at what's next in order to be there for their customer. “Nordstrom is a different company today, and they'll be a different company five years from now. [For everyone else], their business will be a different business a couple years from now,” advises Robert, “You can't stay stagnant, and just expect the same models to work forever…[unsuccessful businesses are] still fighting the old war, whereas Nordstrom is figuring out what's next. What's the next war?”
Robert recommends a simple mindset shift from, “I’m going to sell you something” to “I’m going to make your life easier.” With that, both the customer and business benefits. “This as a soft skill, and the soft skill might be the hardest, because you're finding empathy,” states Robert. “If you think like your customer, you will answer all of your questions. As Nordstrom says, ‘It's not up to us to decide how the customer is going to shop us. The customer is going to shop us, and we have to adjust accordingly.’”
The Nordstrom way is also about culture. While all companies have a culture — some good and some bad — Robert advises that successful companies have a culture of not only nurturing the employees and thinking about the customer, but a culture of making a profit. “You attract people who are attracted to that culture. And you train them according to the culture to get consistency. That's how you get that safe place where you're able to go above and beyond the call of duty because that's what the culture is all about,” says Robert, “You can smile as much as you want, but you don't get to 15 billion in sales just by smiling at somebody. It’s about creating a meaningful experience and loyalty, while contributing to the bottom line.”
According to Robert, most companies are set up to make life easier for the company, not to make life easier for the customer. “Have the reverse thinking: How can I make life easier for the customer, as opposed to our internal systems?” asks Robert. This goes back to thinking like that customer, and having the understanding and bravery to do what it takes.